GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Dispatches) — Mothers vaccinated against COVID-19 may be able to pass along protection against infection to their nursing babies, according to a recently published study from the University of Florida.
Antibodies passed through breast milk could prove beneficial to babies, researchers said, but further study is needed to determine their impact.
“A lot of moms, pregnant women, are afraid to get vaccinated. They want to do what’s best for their babies,” said Dr. Josef Neu, a co-author of the study and professor in the UF College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and Division of Neonatology. “This is something that we wanted to know whether it may actually provide some benefit.”
Babies are born with their immune systems not fully developed, Joseph Larkin III, a senior author of the study and associate professor in the UF Department of Microbiology and Cell Science, explained.
They are too young to get the COVID-19 vaccine and cannot protect themselves. Breast milk, however, is like a helpful tool box that can be altered to potentially improve that vulnerability.
“Milk is a dynamic substance. So in other words, what the baby and the mom (are) exposed to in the environment, there are changes in the milk that correspond to these environmental conditions,” Neu said. “And these can then specifically help the baby.”
According to a UF news release, the study began in December when the COVID-19 vaccines were first made available to health care workers and ran through March.
Using volunteer subjects, the blood and breast milk of 21 lactating mothers who worked in health care, had never had COVID-19 and were eligible to be vaccinated with either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines were tested three times: before vaccination, after the first dose and following the second shot with series completion.